Published 4 years ago.
About a 7 minute read.
Image: Marine Stewardship Council
/ This article is sponsored by
Marine Stewardship Council.
The vast majority of consumers across 22 countries would like to see sustainability information for seafood products in stores and on packaging.
The UN Food and Agriculture
Organization has told us
that over 30 percent of stocks are fished at unsustainable levels — and
consumers are starting to take note: A recent
by leading research agency GlobeScan and international non-profit the
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) found that the vast majority of
consumers across 22 countries would like to see sustainability information for
seafood products in stores and on packaging. While they want to hear more from
the companies themselves about the sustainability of their seafood products,
they also seek independent verification of brand sustainability claims.
The MSC is the leading standard setter for seafood sustainability and offers an
ecolabel indicating that wild seafood was caught in a responsible way. European
appetites for sustainable seafood – or sustainability in general – are stronger
than those of their North American counterparts, and we’re seeing a slower
uptick of labeling and demand in North America. But, the North American market
for this appears to be changing and may be poised to grow - or at least, that’s
a major implication emerging from the GlobeScan study.
On March 18, the two organizations are gathering a group of industry
professionals to discuss the issues, at the upcoming Seafood Expo North
America in Boston, in a session called “What Consumers Want: The Future of
We caught up with Jackie Marks, Senior Public Relations Manager at the MSC,
to find out more about the study and upcoming panel discussion.
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Jackie Marks: The study was motivated by the MSC’s desire to understand what
drives consumers when it comes to seafood purchases. Knowing that helps us to
understand how the MSC blue fish label resonates with consumers, what is or
isn’t working, and what impact our efforts are having. The results help us reach
our collective commercial and marketing goals - we want to make sure we’re
moving in the right direction. Ultimately, if we don’t understand consumers, we
can’t effectively influence their attitudes and behaviors. It all ladders up to
achieving our mission and vision: making sure the seafood we love is around
The 2018 GlobeScan study was conducted in 22 countries with a total of 25,810
consumers surveyed. It represents one of the largest-ever global studies of
seafood shopping habits, which helps to inform the seafood industry more broadly
about concerns, motivations and issues consumers face when it comes to seafood
consumption. The findings build on the first
which was commissioned in 2016 with 21 countries and 21,897 consumers surveyed.
The 2016 results served as a baseline which gives us a point of comparison for
the 2018 results, and future results.
JM: Before the GlobeScan research, our understanding of consumers’
relationships with seafood was informed predominantly through our relationship
with seafood brands,
and other companies’ experience with and knowledge of consumers. The GlobeScan
results give us direct access to consumers’ concerns and motivations and give us
an understanding of their relationship with seafood and how we can make the MSC
and sustainability relevant to their everyday lives and plates. The research
also helps us provide value to our partners’ work – helping companies reach and
message their sustainability commitment to shoppers/diners in a way that will
One of the major findings of the study is that seafood consumers are
increasingly demanding independent verification of sustainability claims in
supermarkets (70 percent in 2018, compared to 68 percent in 2016). In fact,
independent labeling is particularly important to consumers buying health
supplements and fish oils (76 percent), and pre-packed fresh fish (75 percent).
We also learned that 70 percent of seafood consumers in North America say that
they would like to hear more from companies about the sustainability of their
seafood. A separate 2016 study from
also shows that companies that invest in independent labelling and do effective
consumer communications outperform their competitors by 4 percent.
What this tells us is that consumers are savvy and want third party verification
in order to feel that they can trust a brand or store.
JM: One of the biggest challenges that consumers face goes back to what I
just mentioned: Trust. There is a vast amount of information that consumers may
read or see about seafood issues, such as seafood fraud, overfishing, illegal
fishing, and human
and social issues. Oftentimes, information can be conflicting, which may leave
consumers confused and unsure of who to trust.
Consumers reported trusting certification organizations and scientists more than
government and business. The study also finds that trust in the MSC remains high
and awareness of the MSC label has increased. By demonstrating the MSC’s value
as a global nonprofit with an independent, third-party certification program, we
hope to demonstrate our credibility as a trusted source. By making consumers
aware of what the MSC blue fish label on seafood packaging represents — fish
that was caught from healthy fish populations; in a way that has minimal impact
on the marine ecosystem; and with effective, responsive and responsible
management in place — we hope consumers will accept MSC as a trusted source.
However, consumers still do not notice certifications on products — only 24
percent of consumers report seeing ecolabeled products when shopping. Consumer
outreach and education is a key challenge and opportunity in achieving this.
One of our hopes is that once consumers become aware of the MSC blue fish label
and what it stands for, they’ll start looking for it on all of the seafood
products they buy, from fresh, frozen and canned seafood to supplements, and
even pet food.
JM: One of the main findings of the GlobeScan study is that consumers
believe supermarkets’ and brands’ claims about sustainability should be clearly
labeled by an independent organization. Consumers are becoming increasingly
skeptical and understand that self-made claims are unreliable and untrustworthy.
By having a program with independent, third-party verification, like MSC,
consumers can place more trust in the product. This is a key finding for seafood
companies, retailers and restaurants, because consumers are demonstrating that
they are becoming savvier about on-package claims.
JM: We’re excited to see the session! We pulled together a great group of
speakers, and we hope this session will give expo-goers a unique glimpse into
consumer behavior. This is important, as it can help to inform sustainability
practices and broader market trends for sustainable seafood.
We will have a diversity of perspectives and representation from the seafood
industry, including retailers, restaurant and brands. Brandon Hill of
Sustainable Restaurant Group joins the panel to share his insights from the
restaurant perspective; Jennifer Lambert and Shelley Zang join us from
retailers Loblaw (Canada) and Kroger (US), respectively; and
Jan Tharp, President and CEO of Bumble Bee Seafoods, will represent the
brand perspective. Leading the discussion will be food journalist and Green
cookbook author Christine Burns Rudalevige, and with unique insights into
consumer engagement, Abbie Curtis O’Reilly from GlobeScan will share
high-level North America survey results. From this diverse group of speakers,
we’ll get to see what motivates them to ecolabel their products or place the MSC
blue fish label on menus. We hope to demonstrate that the MSC blue fish is
valuable verification to any brand, retailer or restaurant’s sustainability
initiatives and commitment.
We hope the discussion will spark a broader conversation about how the industry
engages with consumers on sustainability initiatives and what progress toward
that looks like in the future.
Published Mar 1, 2019 1am EST / 10pm PST / 6am GMT / 7am CET
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.